The Coburgs of Belgium
The Coburgs, remarked Bismarck, were ‘the stud farm of Europe'; if unkindly phrased, there was nevertheless some truth in the jibe. Within three generations of the foundation of the Belgian Royal House in 1831, Coburgs had tarried into almost every royal family in Europe.
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the throne of Belgium is that it ever came into being: created after the successful rebellion against the Dutch, handed to an imported German prince, it was hoped, without much enthusiasm, that it would weld together a new nation of disparate and quarrelsome elements. It has survived to the present, in an era which has seen older and seemingly more secure dynasties vanish.
The first Coburg of Belgium, Leopold I, as that 'Dear Uncle' to whom Queen Victoria
was so abjectly devoted in the early years of her reign. Cheated by the death of
his first wife, Charlotte, Princess of Wales, daughter of George IV and Queen Caroline,
from becoming Prince Consort to the Queen of England, the resilient Leopold of Saxe-
Leopold I's son, Leopold II, vastly enriched the family fortunes by his avaricious
plunder of the Congo and scandalised Europe with his sexual promiscuity. In fact,
not until the reign of 'Albert of the Belgians' (1909-